Timeline: Blackistone Island Lighthouse

(Located on the southern tip of St. Clement’s Island, St. Mary’s County, MD, on the mouth of the St. Marys’ River on the Potomac River. AKA Blakistone Island – revised 5/27/2020)

1851:   Two-story brick dwelling with an integral tower built on Blackistone Island by John Donahoo. 2nd last lighthouse built by Donahoo.

1857:  Tower fitted with a Fresnel lens.

1859:  Jerome McWilliams, son of the island’s owner appointed head keeper.

1864:  Confederate troops destroy lens and lantern, but spare lighthouse building on behest of keeper McWilliams. Repairs made quickly and lighthouse back in service.

1875:  Josephine McWilliams Freeman named head keeper.

1911:  Keeper Freeman retires, having served as lightkeeper for 37 years. One of only 49 women to serve as a keeper in U.S. history.

1915:  Keeper Leonard H. Staubley is awarded the efficiency gold star.

1918:  Keeper Leonard H. Staubley is awarded the inspector’s efficiency star.

1932:  Lighthouse decommissioned. U.S. Navy purchases lighthouse site for ballistic testing

1934: 40-foot cross erected to commemorate 1634 landing of MD colonists.

1956:  Fire of mysterious origin rages across the island and destroys lighthouse, leaving a burned, roofless shell. Navy demolishes remains.

1961:  After nearly 300 years, island returns to its original name of St. Clement’s Island and is leased to the state of Maryland.

2007:  St. Clement’s Hundred launches drive to build replica lighthouse, 150 yards from the original site.

2008:  Replica lighthouse completed and opened to the public.

Source: Maryland Lighthouse of the Chesapeake Bay by F. Ross Holland, St. Clement’s Island Museum and Lydia Wood, Historic Site Manager, Museum Division.

Permanent link to this article: https://cheslights.org/timeline-blackistone-island-lighthouse/